The shocked panel and audience had barely recovered when a second man approached the microphone. He asked the panel about the elusive and controversial Bilderberg Group, again launching into an attack regarding conspiracy theories. The panel chose to ignore the question, though the man continued to ask more pressingly, declaring, “Whenever I try to talk about it, I get death threats!” Abramson finally broke the silence, stating that she knew of the group but did not wish to discuss it at the panel.
The discussion moved on, with Rosen comparing established mainstream journalists to a “tribe,” and Rather responding, “Had I known we were a tribe, I would have brought my headdress and my wigwam.” But the analogy proved effective in describing the journey of traditional media “migrating across the river to the promised land” where new media already resides. Clever.
Interestingly, Rather refuted claims that the newspaper is dying, pointing out that the same argument was made in the advent of radio, and then again in the advent of television. The newspaper has survived the development of new technology, and so it will survive this time, he argued. Yet one is still left feeling like newspapers will have to adapt like never before to make it through these latest obstacles.
Though he originally entered the panel seeming like the underdog, Rosen ended up having the last word, offering hope that professional and amateur journalists (pro-am) can someday work together in the media.
Even when the discussion officially concluded, the drama continued: the two infamous conspiracy theorists/question hijackers had brought cameras, and followed the panel members as they headed for the elevators. They proceeded to harass them and ask them questions regarding their respective conspiracies. An NYU facility employee suddenly exploded at one of the men, spitting on him and slapping his camera. Then both men attempted to escape down the emergency exit stairs, before being chased and yelled at by NYU employees. Meanwhile, Rather and his assistants disappeared into one of the elevators. Even though the tactless conspiracy theorists kind of deserved it, there’s a good chance that the angry NYU employee will get in trouble for this.
It looks like freedom of speech was certainly the focus of this eventful night!